I had a great conversation with Malka Groden and Naomi Schaefer Riley this week about adoption and foster care — please consider listening, even if it’s not a topic you’ve thought a lot about or feel called to.
The release comes six days after the students were seized from their dormitories at the Kankara Government Science Secondary School in Katsina and driven into the nearby forest, marking one of the largest mass school kidnappings in history. President Muhammadu Buhari praised the military and security agencies in a statement that offered prayers for the full recovery of the victims. They “endured significant hardships in the course of their ordeal,” the statement said.
Local newspaper The Katsina Post tweeted images of dozens of schoolboys jammed onto the back of trucks, some looking dazed, but others sporting wide smiles for the camera as they headed toward home. Government officials said the boys would be given new clothes before an audience with the president on Friday.
A fresh government report has acknowledged the failures of Swiss authorities, at both the federal and cantonal level, to react to information starting in the 1970s indicating illegal and exploitative adoptions of Sri Lankan children were taking place.
A study by Zurich University of Applied Sciences in February found that nearly 11,000 Sri Lankan children had for decades been provided for adoption across Europe through organised and often illegal means.
The study described how babies and young children were produced for adoptions through ‘baby farms’, with Swiss parents willing to pay between 5,000 and 15,000 Swiss francs for a child.
The birth-mothers meanwhile often received no more than a few dollars or even just a thermos in compensation, the study said.
The advocacy organization’s monitors interviewed about 100 children, some as young as 12, and documented their findings in a report this summer. The report included photographic proof of the Dickensian conditions that the state’s most vulnerable children were forced to live in: broken doors, missing floor tiles, blood smeared on the walls and thin mattresses laid on top of concrete platforms.
“These are places that are supposed to provide a safe, homelike, therapeutic environment,” Johnson said. “That’s not what we saw.”
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In Iowa, licensing inspectors found on multiple visits over the past two years that the Woodward Academy staff had put residents in inappropriate restraints without justification. They also found the facility in disrepair, documenting missing sink handles, showers that had no hot water, moldy food, chairs with arms ripped off and nails exposed from torn upholstery on several couches. Sequel disputes the findings and the facility remains open.
Many women will know the anxiety of preparing to bring a child into the world without enough money to feed one person, let alone two. Most will never contemplate selling a child to a stranger. But for some expectant mothers in poverty in Kenya, selling a baby to traffickers has become the last in a limited number of options for survival.
The traffickers pay shockingly low sums. Sarah was 17 when she fell pregnant with her second child, with no means to support the baby, she said. She sold him to a woman who offered her 3,000 Kenyan shillings – about £20.
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“Women and girls with unwanted pregnancies do not have support from the government,” said Ibrahim Ali, Kenya programme manager for the charity Health Poverty Action. “These women have often been victimised and stigmatised, especially in rural areas, and they tend to run away, and that puts them in vulnerable situations in cities.”
Law enforcement source revealed that Alexander was listed as the CEO of private aircraft charter company called Central Jet Charter. The investigation into the case was aptly named, “Operation Mile High” and found that he was trafficking children across county lines for sex. Law enforcement gained evident by using covert recording devices, social media and undercover operations.
Back in March, a female minor reported Alexander to NYPD and alleged that the suspect had sexually abused her and other underage girls. She also said Alexander promoted the young girls for prostitution to other men.
Analysis of police-recorded offences earlier this year found four times as many adolescents were physically abused compared with younger children in England, with incidents against 11- to 18-year-olds soaring during the coronavirus lockdown.
“Although the increased proportion of ED visits related to child abuse and neglect might be associated with a decrease in the overall number of ED visits, these findings also suggest that health care–seeking patterns have shifted during the pandemic,” the report stated.
Regarding the increased hospitalizations, the CDC hypothesized, “Heightened stress, school closures, loss of income, and social isolation resulting from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have increased the risk for child abuse and neglect.”
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“There has been another cost that we’ve seen, particularly in high schools,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in July. “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.”
This month marks the one year anniversary of the launch of Fair Futures, a citywide initiative with all 26 foster care agencies offering life coaches and tutors to nearly 3,000 young people, from middle school to age 26. Fair Futures offers practical and emotional support with everything from school, to the high school admissions process and financial aid applications, to navigating the inherent challenges of growing up in foster care. For the young person in care who is sick with COVID-19, or the college student suddenly faced with homelessness when their dorm closes, or the middle-schooler struggling to keep up with math on a broken laptop, having a Fair Futures coach or tutor isn’t a luxury, but an essential.
The results speak for themselves. On average, just 21 percent of youth in foster care graduate with a high school diploma by age 21. Meanwhile, over 90 percent of youth at agencies that piloted the Fair Futures model were able to meet that goal.
All 50 states must provide food, clothing, shelter and medical coverage for children, but only until age 18. Some continue offering services up to 20 or 21, but young people must ask to remain a ward in the state’s custody to receive them. In Arizona, this is called signing a voluntary.
This is wrong, because it implies the system doesn’t want you past age 18. In a growth phase where their brains are still developing, many youths in foster care choose to prove that they can make it out in the world, alone – often with disastrous effects.
Arizona could be the first state to [change the foster care model], by continuing to offer the services it already provides until 21, unless youths petition to be removed at 18. This would essentially flip the model from how it is now – having them opt out of extended services instead of opting in.
The card, which depicts a mother on the phone near a child who has spilt some milk, saying “Is this the orphanage? Right, I want a f*cking refund …”, was first highlighted on Tuesday by Sophia Alexandra Hall, a care leaver who wrote of her journey to Oxford University in the Guardian. “Me: minding my business in a shop looking for Christmas cards,” Hall wrote on Twitter. “Shop: Merry Christmas here’s an orphan joke.”
“This card isn’t meant for children in care or adults who have been in care. It’s meant for others to pour scorn on them,” [Sissay] wrote on his website. “This card is punching down, abusing children in care … for the butt of a joke. The difference between other ‘edgy card jokes’ is that this one is laughing at a vulnerable foster child. To customer services, please remove these from sale! You are better than this. You spread a lot of happiness. But this. This is the opposite of what you are about. This is beneath you.”
How the pandemic has further affected student performance is something that should concern every parent, teacher and policy maker. We need to know as much as we can, as quickly as we can. Teachers and schools need clear and ongoing data on students’ progress and needs. Policy makers need accurate information to set priorities for use of limited resources.
The federal government should consider significant, targeted efforts to address education achievements gaps. Possible measures could include a national tutoring corps of recent college graduates, retirees and business leaders to help this generation of students by providing one-on-one intervention in a safe and effective way.
Living on school salaries, the Taylors raised one child of their own, plus 45 others — two of whom they adopted — over the past decade.
One of the adopted children was the first kid brought into the family’s household. Currently, seven children live in the house: ages 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 13 (the first foster child) and 15 — Annabel.
“All but one of them are crazy, energetic boys, so there is never a dull moment at the Taylor house,” Annabel Taylor said.
During the pandemic, work never stopped or slowed down at SAFE.
Currently, there are about 40 youth in the various children’s shelter programs. When COVID-19 hit, the agency had to find the technology and space to ensure the children and teens were safe while they transitioned to remote learning.
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The agency also created an isolation and quarantine room for any positive cases or exposures. All children and teens transitioned to a school building on campus for remote learning where the agency created pods with laptops to make sure kids were in an isolated space during the school day.
Reporters found that the state’s Department of Social Services knew for years that children at out-of-state treatment programs run by a for-profit company, Sequel Youth & Family Services, had accused staff of choking, punching and sexually assaulting them.
After reviewing some of the same records compiled by reporters, the social services agency this month declared the programs “lacking,” ordering 116 boys and girls currently placed out of state to be returned to California within 45 days. Youth advocates, who have long decried these distant placements, cheered the decision.
But local probation and child welfare officials were left reeling. They said that while they understood the need to cut ties with the programs, the state should have informed them of widespread problems sooner.
Without adequate support from the state, these officials said they fear foster children and teens adjudicated for crimes could end up languishing in juvenile hall cells, hotel rooms or other places ill-equipped to handle their mental health needs.